Health insurance, bond issue marks school district progress
2009 Progress Edition
When it comes to progress for the Baldwin School District for the past year, the November 2008 Bond Issue leads the way.
However, not far behind, are the thousands of dollars the district is pouring into improving its employees’ health insurance.
“Those two things alone are very big changes for us,” Supt. Paul Dorathy said. “They are really good changes.”
The Baldwin School Board unanimously approved the district’s new health insurance at the June 1 meeting. Baldwin is now in the Greenbush Health Trust with 32 other districts and around 3,200 employees.
To fix the health insurance problems, Dorathy and Cynde Frick, director of financial operations, moved funds around in the 2009-2010 budget. The district will have to pay around $400,000 extra for health insurance, which is on top of the $360,000 it paid for the 2008-2009 school year.
“Health insurance has been a major challenge in this district for quite a while; long before I came here,” Dorathy said. “Part of the problem was we had small numbers and high premiums. So we reallocated almost $400,000 to pay for a single premium for all of our full-time employees. So now the stability in our health insurance will be much better. This is a huge thing for recruiting and retaining the best staff members we can get.”
The other progress for the district was the $22.9 million bond issue. It was approved by the voters in November and has been moving along since. Before the November vote, Dorathy said the school board had mixed feelings about whether it would pass or not.
“The facilities committee put in a great deal of time deciding what did or didn’t need to happen in this district,” he said. “We knew it would be a pretty significant tax increase, but it was a big relief to see that pass by the voters. In the long run, I think it will be very good for the school district and the community. I think the patrons will be pleased with the facilities that come out of this, even though they are paying the price tag for them.”
Included in the bond issue are a new Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, new performing arts center, renovations to Baldwin Junior High School, new ball field complex, new practice track and technology upgrades.
The athletic packages and the BJHS renovations were the first two projects to begin after some of the technology upgrades had been purchased. The ball fields are being constructed south of the Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center, while the practice track will be built around the Baldwin High School soccer field.
“They are moving along rather nicely,” Dorathy said. “We’ve had some nice weather lately, which has helped with the ball fields.”
The renovations to BJHS include new heating and cooling system, new ceiling and flooring in part of the building and improvements to the corridors. Those began in late May and must be completed by early August.
“The junior high should be a nice, remodeled place once the kids come back in August,” Dorathy said. “That’s going to be exciting.”
Meanwhile, the new BESPC and performing arts center have yet to be put out for bids. The BESPC should be bid within the next few weeks. Both projects are being designed with safe rooms, which can withstand tornadoes and are approved by Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Our biggest holdup on those are the FEMA grants,” Dorathy said. “We just recently got approved for the FEMA grant for the new early childhood center. Now, we’re just in a waiting game on the performing arts center.”